Courtenay mayoral candidates Q&A

Three mayoral candidates answer questions regarding taxes, wages, the Airpark and more

The Comox Valley Record asked Courtenay’s mayoral candidates a series of questions requiring YES/NO answers.

Candidates were offered the opportunity to expand on their answers.

Mayoral candidate Erik Eriksson opted not to participate in the Q&A.

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1 – Are you in favour of a long-term lease (minimum 20-year) for the Courtenay Airpark?

Larry Jangula – YES

Harold Long – YES – People think that this site would be prime for development. I grew up on 21st. street in the ’50s & ’60s and am very familiar with the property. The property beside the River Walk is the former foreshore and is a First Nations midden. The Runway and the Lagoon was the Courtenay sewer treatment pond for 30 years, which was never cleaned up. Upon closing the sewer site a clay berm was installed down the middle and the sledge from the present Lagoon was deposited of where the runway is now. The side was then filled with waste from City projects dirt, asphalt, concrete waste, and anything else that was unwanted. The cost of cleanup would be much more than the land value. And we all know that the sea levels are rising, except President Trump. The best we can expect in the future is the Air Park or a Park. My vote is for the jobs that it creates.

Bob Wells – YES – I voted in favour of a long-term lease that included the dock and to abandoned any plans or reference to a 21st Bridge.

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2 – Are you in favour of an additional river crossing (for vehicles) south of the existing 17 Street Bridge?

Larry Jangula – NO – Not at this time. In the event that another crossing is build I feel very strongly that it must be the province who pay for it, as it would be a regional bridge and the Province has paid for the other three local bridges. At this time there doesn’t appear to be a suitable crossing location south of 17th Street, however 17th street could be widened.

Harold Long – NO – That would destroy any hope of reclaiming the Field’s Sawmill Site to enhance the estuary. There is not a problem with our bridges, we can not get to or away from them. That is not a surprise when we have traffic light clusters on all sides.

Bob Wells – NO – Not at this time. I think there are still opportunities to exclude large vessels into the Courtenay Slough that would allow for the 17th St bridge to be modified or twinned without the expense of a drawbridge. Also, Sept 1st was the start of a Rapid Transit Corridor to create a more functional transit system in the Comox Valley. It will take some time for habits to change but public transit has been proven out in many other communities around BC to reduce congestion on the roads.

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3 – Would you be in favour of a salary freeze for council and mayor for the duration of your term (already approved 2019 raise notwithstanding)?

Larry Jangula – YES – I would be in favour of the freeze because council are in a leadership position and need to lead by example.

Harold Long – YES – And I believe the first order of business should be the mayor proposing a 50 per cent salary cut for himself. This should stay in place until the new mayor and council clean up the financial mess that they have been left with. This no doubt will take the four-year mandate.

Bob Wells – NO – If council members were to simply go to one council meeting every couple weeks I think a freeze on salaries might be justified. I can attest that being on council and regional district can require significant time away from family, work and enjoying our community amenities. I have personally traveled for courses, conferences as well as numerous meetings with provincial and federal counterparts to work on behalf of our community without any increase in pay as I felt it was my duty. This has come at a large financial cost to my company and time away from family, however if given the chance to do it again I would not change anything. I think trying to pay our Councillors less will discourage candidates who are extremely capable but cannot afford to take the time off work. As Mayor I will expect Council members to participate in our community beyond our meetings and I will encourage professional development so they can increase their expertise in areas that will benefit our community.

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4 – Would you be in favour of a staff hiring freeze for the next two years?

Larry Jangula – YES

Harold Long – YES – I would like to see a reduction in senior staff and hold the line with the other employees. This may mean replacement of employee turnover.

Bob Wells – NO – I see this as a simplistic answer that could have catastrophic consequences, but would be comfortable if there was a provision to hire critical staff to ensure the health and safety of our community. I am in favour of having a Core Review of services the City provides, to ensure we are on track to provide the services that our citizens want and are willing to pay for.

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5 – Considering the hit most Courtenay homeowners have taken in the past few years, would you support a tax freeze for the 2019 budget?

Harold Long – YES – But we have no idea as to what commitments the last mayor and council has left us with.

Bob Wells – NO – Not without the consequences being clearly laid out. The tax increases over the past few years have been necessary to start getting caught up on our infrastructure and personnel deficit. I am proud that we finally have an Asset Management Plan and have begun a paving program to fix our crumbling streets.

Larry Jangula – YES – I worked to have a tax freeze put on the budget for 2018 and asked that we complete a service review in an effort to identify areas in which we might be able to identify efficiencies and opportunities for the City to deliver necessary services in a cost effective manner.

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6 – Do you believe that the trafficking/distribution and consumption of illicit drugs (cannabis notwithstanding) is an issue in your constituency?

Harold Long – YES – This is a major cause of crime and violence in our City. And without the courts supporting our police to the full extent of the law, it can only get worse.

Bob Wells – YES – I am confident our new Detachment Commander Mike Kuvers has the experience and proven track record to tackle this issue.

Larry Jangula – YES – Yes, very much so.

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7 – Do you believe the Comox Valley RCMP is adequately staffed to effectively combat the drug trade in Courtenay?

Harold Long – YES – This is only an assumption, considering the quality of police protection we receive. Courtenay provides a large portion of the RCMP funding, it is time that the provincial government paid their fair share of the per capita costs. We must be open-minded for additional constables if required.

Bob Wells – YES – I am confident new Detachment Commander Mike Kurvers brings a new approach to dealing with the drug trade in Courtenay. He will be reporting to us regularly and will update us as to any staffing requirements as they arise.

Larry Jangula – YES – I believe that the Courtenay contingent is adequately staffed. The community will be further challenged by the legalization of Cannabis and we are unable to determine what additional staff requirements this may entail.

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8 – Are you in favour of initiating a single-use plastic bag ban for retailers in your community?

Harold Long – NO – There is a problem with packaging of some products like meat. But I am in favour charging purchasers for their distribution, the cost will encourage buyers to re-use or seek alternatives.

Bob Wells – YES – I am already proud of the local businesses that have stepped up to ban plastics in their businesses and will work with our Chamber of Commerce that already has been working on sustainability projects. From fluids to blue spruce – local businesses are already leading the charge on this effort and should be celebrated.

Larry Jangula – YES – I am in favour of looking into it however I’m not sure how we will be handling things such as meat and fish products, or what we will place our waste into. I am very strongly in favour of pursuing some form of waste to energy rather than burying our solid waste in a landfill. Currently the majority of retail outlets charge extra for plastic bags, and we need to encourage them to have those bags returned and recycled.

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9 – Are you in favour of increasing the number of settlement nodes within the Regional Growth Strategy, to facilitate future development in the Comox Valley?

Bob Wells – NO – I will be recommending a review of our Regional Growth Strategy so that we can properly assess its ability to properly anticipate growth in our community. Rather than simply increase the nodes, I think reviewing the effectiveness in an open and collaborative process to see if and where more nodes are required is a better approach.

Larry Jangula – YES – At the present time there are only about 20 individual lots available for a potential homeowner to purchase. This has caused the price of housing to escalate almost 50% in the past 8 years. Each development needs to be evaluated on their own merits and we need to ensure that each development will proved the right benefit to the community.

Harold Long – YES – One of the biggest causes of the increase in lot prices is the cost of obtaining land that can be serviced. Crown Isle has the only large track of land available to develop, and purchasing, servicing and approval of small parcels is very costly. The Comox Valley First Nations have a very large site in the Sage Hills existing node. This could provide much needed development land.

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10 – *Do you support the proposed amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy to facilitate the residential development near Stotan Falls?

(*Question was asked prior to Tuesday CVRD vote)

Bob Wells – NO

Larry Jangula – YES – I have voted in favour of moving the matter forward at the regional district level. I think its important that they go through the process unencumbered. The final decision will only be made by the three regional district directors.

Harold Long – NO – This proposal goes completely away from the Comox Valley Growth Strategy. I do not believe responsible government should make a bad decision just because a developer puts a juicy carrot out. I do believe this area should become an addition to our valley parks.

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11 – Are you in favour of the Comox Valley Agriplex project, as it is currently being proposed?

Bob Wells – NO – There is a huge demand for more space in the Comox Valley so I am in support of exploring possibilities with the Agriplex project – but am not in favour of supporting any project that is not able to adapt to the wants, needs and financial realities of our community.

Larry Jangula – YES – Providing that they can obtain some provincial Funding. This facility is long overdue and would enable us to attract larger events to the Comox Valley.

Harold Long – NO – My answer only reflects the lack of information and affordability. I am in favour of additional facilities, but we need to know all the costs.

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12 – Are you in favour of tax concessions for downtown businesses to further enhance the downtown core?

Bob Wells – YES – I was in favour of the Downtown Revitalization Tax Exemption to encourage businesses, owners and developers to expand their businesses with particular focus on increasing residential units.

Larry Jangula – YES – In fact I proposed a plan for the area bounded by the Courtenay River, 4th. Street, 17th. Street and McPhee Avenue. This plan would see anyone who is going to increase the density of their property, or construct commercial buildings with residential accommodation above them in the downtown core, to receive a tax freeze for a minimum of five years. This would encourage construction and investment in the downtown core. A very similar initiative was successfully initiated in the downtown core of Campbell River.

Harold Long – YES – Those form of concessions need to come with assurances that those projects will enhance and bring long term viability to our Downtown. We should be working closely with businesses and owners who have a large investment in our community.

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13 – Are you in favour of conducting a study, in partnership with the Province of BC, to review the governance structures and policies of the City of Courtenay and other local governments within the Comox Valley to consider the feasibility and implications of restructure? (This question will appear on ballots for Courtenay voters)

Bob Wells – YES – This has already been initiated at the Regional District through a Utilities Governance Review. I voted in favour of the question being included on our Ballot this election to see if the citizens of Courtenay are also in favour of us continuing this discussion.

Larry Jangula – YES

Harold Long – NO – I believe that amalgamation has a lot of merit. But we need to know if the senior levels of government will be bringing a big enough cheque to the table. The last time around this question, we went to the polls not knowing the real costs to our community. We study things to death.

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